Disney’s Memorable Moments at the Oscars

Disney’s Memorable  Moments At The Oscars

Disney looks to have a big year at the Oscars this year.
Disney Animation studios released “Frozen” which has gone on to become an instant classic, a huge hit at the box office, and a certain lock to win for Best Animated Feature and for best song. The incredible songwriters Robert and Kristen Lopez have people everywhere singing the score from the film.
Mickey Mouse also hopes to make a triumphant return, as the grundbreaking animated short “Get A Horse“, which mixes old school 1920’s era black and white characters with modern 3D full color versions, will take home the Oscar for best animated short.
Neither of these will be surprising when you consider Disney’s Oscar history.
Look in any record book about the Academy Awards and you’ll see one name  pop up over and over again…
Whether it’s an Oscar personally given to Walt (who holds the record with  over 60 nominations, half of those resulting in wins) or to his company Disney and the Academy have had a great relationship.
Oscar and Mickey Mouse were even born the same year (1928) so there’s lots  of history between them. The only thing missing for Disney is a Best Picture win. They are still the only major studio left from the “golden days” of the 1920’s to remain winless at Best Picture  (unless you count the four wins for Miramax, which Disney bought in 1993 and  sold just a few years ago.)
Here now are ten great Disney Moments at the Oscars…..
Walt’s First Oscar Wins
November 1932 

The Academy Awards 5th annual Ceremony was just a small industry gathering at a hotel ballroom when Walt and his wife Lillian attended on November 18,  1932. (Coincidentally, it was also Mickey’s birthday.)
A few people listened on the radio at home, and most read about it in film  magazines afterwards, but the Oscars didn’t get the massive wall to wall  coverage and live worldwide broadcast it does today.
It was in that small intimate atmosphere that Walt, a few weeks shy of his  31st birthday, was given his very first Oscar. (Actually, Walt is credited with  popularizing the name for the little golden guy. It had officially been called  the “Academy’s Award” until a librarian at the Academy remarked that it looked  like her Uncle Oscar. The nickname was seen as a derogatory one until Walt stood  at the podium and referred to his statue proudly as “his little Oscar.” After  that, the name stuck.)
The Oscar given to Walt that night was an honorary one, for the creation of  Mickey Mouse and his contribution to world cinema.  Nevertheless, it was only  the second such award ever given. The first honorary Oscar was given to Walt’s  idol, Charlie Chaplin, in 1929. Chaplin was supposed to present the award to  Disney, but got sick the day of the ceremony and couldn’t attend.
Disney’s animators created  special cartoon for the occasion called  “Mickey’s Parade of Award Nominees.” It was the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon  produced in color.
In the short, Mickey leads a marching band, including Minnie, Pluto, Horace  Horse Collar and Clarabell Cow (Goofy and Donald hadn’t yet been born.) Also in  the parade were caricatures of that year’s major acting award nominees as the  characters they played in their films, including Wallace Beery as “The Champ”  and Frederick March as Dr. Jekyll, who changes into Mr. Hyde as the parade moves  along. (Both Beery and March would make Oscar history that night by sharing the  Best Actor Award.) The parade ends with Pluto holding  sign attached to his tail  saying “The End.”
You can tell that the cartoon was done quickly, and not up to the usually  rigid Disney standards. The background doesn’t change at all. It’s just the same  castle and windmill rotating by over and over gain as the characters pass.
At the conclusion of the short that night (which has been cut from  subsequent releases of the cartoon) Mickey appears onscreen to thank the Academy  and introduce Walt, saying that he could take it from there.
The cherry on top of the night was that Disney also won his first Oscar in  a competitive category. It was the for best cartoon.
“Flowers and Trees” was the 29th Silly Symphony film Walt produced, but it  was his first in Technicolor. The use of this new process (which Disney shrewdly  locked up for his studio only) was revolutionary and gave new life to a medium  that had shown signs of waning. The film community took notice and gave the  short its highest honor.
The days of black and white cartoons were quickly coming to an end, and  the years of Disney dominance at the Academy Awards were just  beginning.
Disney’s Unofficial Anthem Wins Big
February 1941
If there’s one thing Walt Disney knew about his audiences, it was that they  loved music, especially when it moved the story along and pulled at your  heartstrings.
From “Steamboat Willie” in 1928 to “The Three Little Pigs” in 1933 and  “Snow White” in 1937, songs (whether instrumental or lyrical) were an integral  part of Disney films. That’s why it’s so surprising that the Academy took over a  decade to award Best Song to a number from one of Walt’s pictures.
1940’s “Pinocchio” is a masterpiece visually, but it’s the music that helps  seal the deal. The jaunty score that fills the film, written by Disney’s in  house composers Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, was honored  by the Academy, but it was one song that stood out among them all and took the  top musical prize at the 13th Annual Oscar Ceremony in 1941.
“When You Wish Upon A Star” is a plaintive song, first heard as Jiminy  Cricket (voice of Cliff Edwards) introduces the story. (Trivia note: in the scene where  Jiminy is passing a bookshelf as he sings the song, you can see both “Peter Pan”  and “Alice In Wonderland” among the books on the shelf. This is a nice in-joke,  as those films were still in pre-production by Disney at the time, still a  decade away.) It’s a tune filled with hopes and dreams, telling about the power  of wishes coming true. For audiences in 1940, with the world on fire and rolling  headlong into war, it was a soothing  ballad and became an instant hit. The  Academy followed with its praise.
Not only did “Pinocchio” win for best song and score (the first Disney film  to do so)  it also has the distinction of being the first animated feature film  to win Oscars in competitive categories.
The songs from “Pinocchio” were so popular that a full soundtrack was  released, the first time that had ever been done for a feature film, animated or not. It rose to  the top of the charts.
“When You Wish Upon A Star” was recently named #7 on the American Film Institute’s  list of Top Movie Songs of all time. It has since become the anthem for Disney,  heard in TV shows, other Disney productions and at the theme parks. It’s  certainly lived up to Oscar’s billing as Best Song.
The Disney canon produced many other memorable tunes after that 1940  triumph. Unfortunately, Oscar only recognized them twice more for Best Song in  the successive 50 years (1947 and 1964.) Even so, “When You Wish Upon A Star”  retains its unique position in both motion picture and Disney history.
James Baskett Honored
March 1948
In 1946, Americans were still shaking off the horrors of The Great  Depression and World War II. Walt Disney came along with the right tonic to  lift their spirits.
“Zip A Dee Doo Dah”, the featured track in “Song of the South” was an  instant hit. (All but five minutes of that film features songs.) Its lyrics, which speak of of plenty of sunshine and a wonderful day ahead, exuded  optimism with every note. For the man who sang it in the film, though, things  were not always so happy.
James Baskett studied to be a pharmacist before dropping out  of college to pursue a career as an actor, eventually joining the performing  company of the legendary dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.Baskett made his way  to Broadway, where he starred in a revue featuring Louis Armstrong. The reviews  were so good, they prompted Baskett to move to Hollywood. He did a few parts in B films, and co-starred on the Amos and Andy Radio Show. It was through that job  that he was invited to the Disney Studio to audition for a small voice-over role as  one of the butterflies in Disney’s live action/animated adaptation of the Uncle  Remus stories, written by Joel Chandler Harris.
When Walt Disney met and heard Baskett, he knew he had found his Uncle  Remus, a role Baskett hadn’t even intended to read for. As a result, James  Baskett has the distinct honor of being the very first actor hired to star in a  live action Disney film. He certainly rewarded Disney for his faith in  him.
Viewed in a 21st Century politically correct light, “Song of the South” can  make you wince at times. The film’s depiction of Plantation life in the  post-Civil War south has images and dialogue that can be seen as demeaning to  African-Americans (contrary to popular myth, there are no references to slavery  in this film.) Baskett’s performance, however, stands out. He does not do  anything to dishonor his heritage. In response to his critics, Baskett was quoted in a 1947 Ebony magazine article as saying, “I believe that certain groups are doing more harm to our race in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the positive images Mr. Disney shows in this film.”
Uncle Remus is a genial character, narrating the animated stories of Brer  Rabbit, Brer Bear and  Brer Fox (who basket actually provided the voice for. He spoke so fast as Brer Fox that the animators had trouble synching his words to the cartoons) Remus  is the voice of wisdom and the conscience of the film. Many of his lessons and  moralistic fables are told in song. “Zip A Dee Doo Dah” was just one of them,  but he conveyed just as much emotion and yearning in that one song as Judy  Garland had in her rendition of “Over the Rainbow” a few years before in  “The Wizard of Oz.”
The proof of Baskett’s imprint on the collective minds of the public is  that ‘Zip a Dee Doo Dah” has been covered and recorded by hundreds of artists  since, yet it’s Baskett’s version that endures. People remember him, despite the  fact that “Song of the South” has been effectively buried by Disney and hasn’t  been seen in almost 30 years.
The Academy members felt so strongly about Baskett’s performance as Uncle  Remus that they didn’t even place him in the nominee pool for Best Actor, they  just gave him an Oscar outright, which was presented to him by Ingrid Bergman at the 20th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1948.
James Baskett was not only the first actor to win an Oscar for a Disney  film, he was also the first African American male to be given one. His co-star  in the film, Hattie McDaniel, had the distinction of being the first African  American female a few years before with her win for “Gone With The Wind.”
Baskett’s Academy Award read:
“Given to James Baskett for his able and heartwarming characterization of  Uncle Remus, friend and storyteller to the children of the world.”
The award was somewhat of a redemption for Baskett, as he had to endure one  of he saddest points in Disney history just a few years prior to that.
The World Premiere for “Song of The South” was held at the FOX theater in  Atlanta Georgia on  November 12, 1946. Everyone from the film was there for the  big night. Everyone, that is, except for the film’s star.
Baskett would have loved nothing more than to soak in the appreciation and  adulation of the crowd seeing his film for the first time. Unfortunately,  Atlanta was a segregated city back then, and African Americans – even those who  starred in the film itself – were not allowed to mix with whites in movie  theater audiences.
I wish I could say that Walt Disney boycotted this shameful treatment and  did not go to the premiere. It pains me to say he did not. While records show  that Walt debated canceling the premiere due to the racial exclusion policy, the  fact that the family of Joel Chandler Harris (who had been outspoken critics of  segregation and the Ku Klux Klan) personally invited him to have the premiere in  Georgia – where Harris wrote all the Uncle Remus tales – convinced Disney to  go. His one mild form of protest was to leave the theater immediately after the film began. He never stayed to see it with the segregated audience.
Baskett’s Oscar night glory made up in a small way for his disgraceful  treatment in Georgia, and he was generally acknowledged as one of the finer  African American actors of his generation. Sadly, James Baskett died of heart  failure at the young age of 44, just a few months after winning his Award and  never lived to build upon his Disney triumph.
As of this writing, Disney still does not have plans to release “Song of  the South” from its vaults. That’s a shame, as they have used parts of the film  for park attractions (Splash Mountain, Critter Country) the song is one of the  most played in the Disney universe, and  the company has put out other racially  insensitive cartoons from that period on DVD, with explanations of their context.
Today’s audiences should be exposed to this film and be allowed to judge it  on their own merits. This would also give them a chance to see Baskett’s one and  only Disney performance, a powerhouse one which will stand the test of time, as  the Academy itself confirmed.
Walt’s Record Setting Night
April 1954
By 1953, Walt Disney had run up an incredible amount of Academy Award  nominations. With the exception of one year, Disney had some stake in the races  annually since 1932. His trophy case was filling up fast. (He also had the unusual task in 1937 of presenting himself with an Oscar, as he was the one chosen to read the nominees that year.)
Walt  cried onstage when he was given the Irving Thalberg award in 1942 for his production of “Fantasia.” The Academy lauded him for the use of Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, despite the fact that the film was Disney’s first box office bomb. Through his tears Walt said,  “Maybe I should be getting a medal for bravery instead. We all make mistakes, mine was an honest one. I promise to rededicate myself to my old ideals.”Perhaps the most unique Oscar ever was given to Walt as a special trophy in  1939 to honor the groundbreaking achievement of “Snow White and the Seven  Dwarfs.” The statue consisted of one actual size Oscar and seven smaller ones  ascending a staircase. It was presented to Walt by the biggest child star in  Hollywood at the time (and perhaps of all time) Shirley Temple. Her comment to  Disney asking him if he was proud of the award prompted him to say “I’m so proud  I think I’ll bust!”
It was a nice moment, but nothing compared to the armful of real Oscars  Walt would hold 15 years later.
The 26th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony was held at the RKO Pantages  Theater on March 25, 1954. It marked only the second time that the show was  broadcast to a national television audience. (A young comic actress named Betty White hosted car commercials during the breaks.) “From Here To Eternity” was the big  winner, taking home 8 prizes including Best Picture (it tied “Gone With The  Wind” for most wins ever.) The show had a “Rat Pack” feel to it, as Frank  Sinatra won an Oscar and Dean Martin sang “That’s Amore” (which was nominated  for Best Song.) The evening, however, belonged to Walt Disney.
For the first and only time in Oscar history, one person won four Academy  Awards for a quartet of different films.It was expected, of course, that Disney would win for animated short, which he did for “Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom” , the first cartoon ever made in CinemaScope. It starred the now obscure Disney character Professor Owl in a comical history of musical instruments.The other three wins came as a direct result of Walt’s experimental side.One of Walt’s many risks paid off for him in a big way when he decided, in 1949, to stretch the studio’s filmmaking muscles even further by producing a short nature film. “Seal Island” was his first “True Life Adventure” and everyone advised him not to make it. RKO Pictures, the company that distributed Disney’s films, said that nobody would go see a half hour film about seals with no humans and no dialogue, save for the narration.

Walt persisted, and he had a friend run “Seal Island” in a Pasadena theater for a week so that it would qualify for the Oscars. It won Best Live Short that year. Walt wouldn’t let this moment pass. He supposedly marched the Oscar down to his brother Roy’s office the next day and said, “Here, take this to RKO and bop them on the head with it.”

As a result of his continuing “True Life Adventure” series, Walt was nominated in 1953 for the full length documentary “The Living Desert”, the live short  “Bear Country” and the short documentary “The Alaskan Eskimo” (which was actually part of an offshoot of the “True Life” series called “People and Places.”) He won all three.

Holding his record four statues in his hand, Walt told the press that it was wonderful to get the awards and that he should probably now retire from filmmaking.

As we all know, he did not. Walt Disney had one last great triumph left.

Ub Iwerks Gets His  Due
April 1960
In 1960, an Academy Award was given to a member of Disney’s staff  that helped to shine a light on someone who was as much a pioneer as Walt, yet  had (and still has, unfortunately) barely any name recognition with moviegoers.
One of the fairer criticisms leveled at Walt Disney is the fact that as the  head of the studio, with his name front and center on all films, he gained all  of the credit while not doing much of the work.
Walt himself agreed with this. He often said that while he worked as hard  as anyone else, his job wasn’t quite defined. He saw his role as more of a king  bee, going from department to department overseeing each aspect of the  production and cross-pollinating ideas until they had a fine tuned product  to release.
This caused tension in the studio as some of Walt’s employees, feeling  undervalued and kept in his shadows, eventually left Disney in disgust. One of  those men was Walt’s oldest friend in the business.
Ub Iwerks and Walt met each other in Kansas City in 1918 as co-workers in  an advertising company. They hit it off right away and started a company  together called Iwerks-Disney (If they did it the other way, people would  confuse them for an optometrists office.) Walt was the flashy showman, and Ub  was the talented animator. Walt had his own gifts as an artist, but could not match his  partner’s output. It was aid that Ub Iwerks could produce 700 drawings in a day,  and astounding volume for an animator. When Walt left for other opportunities,  their nascent studio folded as Ub wasn’t as good as Walt at promoting or  selling.
A few years later, when Walt started his studio in California, Ub was one  of the first to join his staff. Walt couldn’t pay much, so he offered shares in  the company in return. They had some success, but when Walt was double crossed  by his distributor, who hired away his animation staff, Ub was the only one to  remain loyal and stay at Walt’s side.
Together Ub and Walt helped to create Mickey Mouse as we know him now. This  launched the Disney Studio to greater heights than either could have  imagined. The public immediately thought of Walt and Mickey as one, giving  little credit to Iwerks, despite the fact that his name was prominent in the  titles.
Ub finally had enough and left Disney in 1930. He cashed in his shares (a  move that he and his family would come to regret, as his portion of ownership in  the Disney Studio would now be worth an incredible fortune) and started his own  studio, with characters like Willie the Whopper and Flip the Frog. While  talented, Ub didn’t have the storytelling gifts that Walt did and his Studio  soon went under.
Iwerks returned to Disney in 1940, but in a different capacity. An  inveterate tinkerer, Ub was put in charge of research and development for the  studio. Disney was always out front with technology, adding such innovations to  film like the multi-plane camera. They were now expanding to live action films,  so new technologies were needed. Ub Iwerks’ blueprints and designs would ensure   that Disney remained the gold standard for special effects.
After 20 years of his inventions like the multiheaded optical printer  – which allowed animated characters to blend seamlessly on screen with live  action, the color traveling matte – which made painted backgrounds more  realistic, and novel film developing techniques, Iwerks was rewarded with an  Oscar for his talent as a master movie magic technician.
When he walked up to the podium on that night in 1960 to accept his Academy  Award, Ub Iwerks – for that moment at least – was the star of the night and  shone as brightly as any Disney employee ever had.
Ub Iwerks won another Oscar shortly after that and then semi-retired from  the film business and went to work at the Imagineering Department, using his  genius to develop Disney attractions like It’s A Small World, Pirates of the  Caribbean and the Hall of Presidents.
Without Ub Iwerks leading the way and creating things on screen that did  not exist before, there would be no “Star Wars” “Jurassic Park” “Avatar” or “Gravity” today. He is there in spirit every time an Oscar for Technical Skills or Special  Effects is given out.
Walt’s Greatest Oscar Triumph
April 1965

By 1964, Walt Disney had racked up an impressive amount of Oscar  nominations and Awards. He had, by then, found his stride in live action films  and his studio was the leader in animation and special effects. Still, he felt  that he was never really respected by the industry, and viewed himself as an  outsider to the major studio system that ran Tinseltown.

A Best Picture  nomination eluded Walt for years, and he knew he had to do something special to  join the club.

Disney put all of the collective talent, knowledge and experience of his  staff into one ambitious project, an adaptation of P.L Travers’ classic tales of  a “practically perfect” British nanny, Mary Poppins. This would be a musical  combining live action and animation, with an all star cast of Disney regulars  and a few newcomers.
In previous years, Walt might have worried about taking on such a  monumental project, but he said that he never did because all he saw around the  Studio were smiles, especially from his brother Roy who controlled the purse  strings and was notoriously skeptical of Walt’s grand visions and designs.
As depicted in the recent film “Saving Mr. Banks” (which, alas, didn’t get nominated for any acting, directing or writing Oscars, just one for its score) it wasn’t easy to convice Mrs. Travers to give permission to make the film. Walt’s team, led by the multi-talented geniuses Bob and Dick Sherman, crafted something beyond anyone’s expectations.
The faith was well placed. “Mary Poppins” was an instant classic. Audiences  all over the world went to see it again and again. When it came time for the  nominations for the  37th Academy Awards, Walt thought that he would do OK, but  he – and the rest of his staff – were astounded by what happened.
“Mary Poppins” earned thirteen Oscar nominations, the most that year and  still one of the highest totals ever, including the long sought after Best  Picture. Finally, Walt could head to the Oscars with head held high as he  competed on the same playing field as his peers. To go with the Best Picture  nod, “Poppins” was included in all of the top five categories, with the  exception of Best Actor (poor Dick van Dyke, you were robbed.)
Julie Andrews, who played Mary, was Walt’s big discovery. He had seen the  young English actress on Broadway in “My Fair Lady” and took the chance on her  when she was passed over for the lead role in the film adaptation of the play.  Mary Poppins was the film debut for Julie Andrews. (Ironically, Audrey Hepburn, who was cast in “My Fair Lady” was denied an Oscar  nomination, in large part because it was discovered that she didn’t do her own  singing in the film.)
For only the third time in history, an actress won the Academy Award for  their debut role. Andrews was speechless. She managed to get her first words  out, and they were thanks to Walt Disney.
This gave hope to those who thought “Mary Poppins” would add Best Picture  to its five other wins (Actress, Special Effects,  Editing, Score, and Song –  “Chim Chimeree” written by the Sherman Brothers) It was not meant to be.
“My Fair Lady”  bested “Poppins” by three awards, including the top prize. One of those was for British film veteran Rex Harrison, who won Best Actor. This  added to another notable record, as for the first time in Oscar history, all  four acting honors went to non-Americans. (the other winners were fellow Brit  and Disney favorite Peter Ustinov for “Tokapi” and Greek actress Lila Kedrova  for “Zorba”.) The feat was matched in 2007.
Walt was, of course, sad that he didn’t win Best Picture, but the  melancholy was only temporary as he gleefully basted of the five trophies and  thirteen nominations. To him, it was validation of a forty year effort to be  included among the people shaping the present and future of filmmaking.
Mr. Disney died less than two years after that Oscar night, but he passed  away knowing that with “Mary Poppins” he and his studio staff had finally gained  the legitimacy they had sought for decades.
Mickey Meets Oscar
April 1978/ 1988
Despite his standing as Walt Disney’s most famous cartoon character, and  the symbol for the whole company, Mickey Mouse was only responsible for one of  Walt’s Oscar wins. That came in 1941 for his animated short “Lend A Paw” which  featured Pluto as a co-star.
Mickey faded from the silver screen in the 1950’s and 60’s and was pretty  much done as a film star by the 1970’s. It was Oscar that helped Mickey make a  big comeback, just in time to celebrate the 50th birthday for both of  them.
At the 50th Academy Awards Ceremony, held in April 1978, “Star Wars” was a  big winner. It didn’t nab the top prize, but took home 6 Oscars out of ten  nominations. So it was no surprise that the film’s robot stars, C3PO and R2D2  were on hand to present a special technical award related to the film. What was  a surprise was who took the stage directly after them.
As the orchestra played “The Mickey Mouse Club March”, Mickey himself  skipped on stage, nodding to Threepio and Artoo as he passed them by. This live  costumed version of Mickey, visiting from down the road at Disneyland, was  decked out in a tux and the crowd roared with applause as he soaked in the  moment.After announcing that he was there to give out the Oscar for best  animated short (thanks to a live voice-over by his longtime alter ego Jimmy  MacDonald) he was joined by diminutive singer/songwriter Paul Williams as a  co-presenter. Jodie Foster, who had supposedly lost out on a starring role in  “Star Wars” because she was locked into her Disney contract, mysteriously  appeared from the wings to remind everybody that it was Mickey’s 50th birthday  too. Williams, after complimenting Mickey on “Steamboat Willie”, cracked that  maybe they would get Mickey two more fingers for his big day. The final surreal  moment was Mickey reading the list of nominees (including Garry Trudeau’s  attempt at a “Doonesbury” short film) before Paul Williams opened the envelope.  As soon as the winner came on stage, Mickey left.
Mickey would return to Oscar’s stage to celebrate his 60th birthday, albeit  in a different form.
When the 60th Academy Awards Ceremony was held in April 1988, it was in the middle of a tense writer’s strike that affected the mood of the entire evening.  It was a more subdued occasion, and not as celebratory as the one ten years  earlier. Midway through the show host Chevy Chase promised a “very special  guest.” When they returned from commercial break, it was revealed that Mickey  Mouse was the mystery presenter and smiles filled the room.
As Chase made his introduction to Mickey, the camera showed the front row  of the audience at the Shrine Auditorium, where Minnie, Daisy and Donald Duck  were sitting. Donald was characteristically incensed when the build-up to “one  of the most beloved cartoon stars of all time” did not lead to him. They then  showed clips from Mickey’s 60 years, finishing with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”  scene from “Fantasia.”
At the conclusion of the clip package, an animated Mickey – still dressed  in his Sorcerer outfit – jumped from the screen onto the stage and began talking  to the audience. As an homage to “Mary Poppins” and all the other live  action/animation films Disney had produced, it was nice to see Mickey interact  with the live crowd and host.
Mickey began to introduce his “distinguished co-presenter” when he was  rudely interrupted by Donald, who believes that the honor is his. When Mickey apologizes  (always playing the nice guy) and says that they chose a human to help him,  Donald gets apoplectic. A hook comes out from the wings and yanks Donald off so  Mickey can continue. (Mickey uses his magic powers to zap Donald back to his  seat, still grumbling.)
The human presenter in question was Tom Selleck (famous as TV’s “Magnum PI”  and who had appeared in the previous year’s Disney hit “Three Men and  a Baby.”)  Selleck didn’t seem too thrilled at the assignment, but played along  gamely. After asking Mickey to change into something more appropriate (which he  magically does) Selleck led him to the podium – with almost none of the banter  that Williams had with Mickey in 1978 – to read the list of nominees.  When  Selleck asks for the envelope, Mickey tells him that he must have left it in the  other outfit. Selleck asks him if he still has magic dust, and Mickey makes an  envelope appear at the podium.  After three minutes, they are done. Those three  minutes, though, represented a lot of work.
It took Disney animators almost a month to create the short segment. The  big headache was making it work on stage. In films like “Bedknobs and  Broomsticks” and “Pete’s Dragon” the animation was matched to live action film  that was already shot and processed. For this appearance, Mickey would be  interacting live in the moment, something that was rarely done. Nine reels of  animation had to be carefully matched by the technicians at the Awards that  night to pull off the visual trick. Audience members at the Shrine saw Selleck  talking to empty space. Viewers at home saw Mickey. It was nicely done and a  fitting tribute to the Mouse that started it all.
Mickey made one more appearance at the Oscars in 2003, for his 75th  birthday, presenting the shorts category with actress Jennifer Garner. By this  time, computers had refined the live action/animation interaction process and  the results were seamless.
Mickey will surely be a winner this year with “Get A Horse.” It was released in theaters as the pre-show for “Frozen” and marks Mickey’s first time starring in a big screen short since 1995’s “Runaway Brain.” It’s wildly inventive, and even features Walt Disney himself, as the voice of Mickey. (They used archival clips and spliced them in with mdern ones.) Who knows if Hollywood’s most famouse mouse  will show up to accept the award himself this time.
Disney was always good to the Oscars and vice versa. That relationship  was severely tested in 1989, however, with what was perhaps the worst Academy  Awards ceremony opening number in history.
Oscar Insults Disney
March 1989 
Allan Carr was the consummate Hollywood showman, so he seemed a natural  choice to produce an Academy Awards Ceremony. He was given the task for the 61st  Oscars in March 1989.
Carr, who favored campy productions, was notable for producing the 1978 hit  film “Grease” and the not so successful Village People film “Can’t Stop The  Music” which derailed Bruce Jenner’s acting career (not that it needed much  help.) He decided to bring that campiness and pizzazz to the Oscars. It was  a phenomenally bad idea.
It started with Carr importing six million tulips to line the outside of   the Shrine Auditorium. He also spent a small fortune building a lavish “green  room” for his presenters. The worst mistake, however, was casting a Disney icon  in a not so flattering light.
Disney’s Snow White, who had just marked her 50th Anniversary a few years  before, was brought in by Carr to open the show. Rather than utilizing an  animated version, he hired an unknown actress named Eileen Bowman to play Snow  White and dressed her exactly as Disney had in the 1937 film. Bowman did a nice  job capturing Snow’s wide eyed innocence, but she was put in a no win  situation.
Carr’s opening had longtime awards show staple Army Archerd announcing that  one of the great Hollywood legends was back, as Snow White entered to applause.  She asked Archerd how to get to the theater, and Archerd told her to follow the  gold Hollywood stars on the carpet. At this point things started to go off the  rails, as the camera panned down to show Snow White wearing Dorothy’s ruby red  slippers from MGM’s “Wizard of Oz” (huh?) She then walked to the front of the  auditorium, crooning “I Only have Eyes for You” directly into the faces of  luminaries like Tom Hanks, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. To  say that these celebrities, who had no idea that she was going to do that, were  mortified is an understatement.
If it ended there, that would be enough to make the opening go down in  infamy. The ridiculousness continued, though. Snow White leaped to the stage,  which was dressed to resemble the old Coconut Grove nightclub. Talk show host  Merv Griffin launched into a rendition of his onetime hit “I’ve Got A Lovely  Bunch of Coconuts” while stars like Roy Rogers and Vincent Price sat on stage  with barely a mention or introduction.
At the conclusion of his song, Griffin turned to Snow White and told her  that her blind date, actor Rob Lowe, was there. Lowe and Snow  then began  singing a sexually suggestive version of “Proud Mary” with lyrics clearly  tweaking Disney and its studio. While they sang, the tables, chairs and other  parts of the nightclub came to life, thanks to dancers hidden inside, and joined  the fun. (Inspiration for “Be Our Guest” perhaps? I’m joking, of  course.)
The conclusion of this weird spectacle was an appearance by actress Lilly  Tomlin (who had dressed as Snow White herself in 1980’s “9 To 5.”) She summed up  pretty much what everyone – both at home and in the audience – was thinking by  saying that more than a billion people were watching, in many different  languages, and were still trying to make sense of what they just saw.
The response to the opening number was almost universally negative.
Disney executive Frank Wells called Allan Carr the next morning demanding  an apology for using Snow White’s image without permission and for putting her  in such a negative context. Carr, who to his dying day insisted that he meant no  insult and that the opening was a smash hit, refused to apologize. Wells then  threatened to file a lawsuit. Before they could go to court, the  Academy publicly apologized to Disney on behalf of Carr and the  organization.
To make matters worse for Carr, an open letter was published in the  Hollywood trade papers which called his opening number an undignified  embarrassment to the Academy and to the motion picture industry. It was signed  by legends like Julie Andrews, Gregory Peck and Paul Newman. Carr was  subsequently banned by the Academy from being involved with Oscar shows and his  film career was effectively ended.
In actuality, after things settled down, the show was pretty normal. It marked the first time that winners were announced by saying “And the Oscar goes  to..” (one of Carr’s ideas.) Disney was well represented by “Who Framed Roger  Rabbit” which won several awards. The voice of Roger, Charles Fleischer,  appeared as a presenter with fellow comedian Robin Williams, who came out  dressed as Mickey Mouse. Williams did an almost five minute risque riff on  Mickey and Disney, but he didn’t catch as much flack from Wells as Carr did  because Wells said it was more of a spoof and parody than a disrespectful use of  the character.
One other note of interest: Pixar won their very first Oscar that year, for  the computer animated short “Tin Toy.” John Lasseter, a Disney veteran now back  in the fold, accepted the award and predicted big things to come for his company  and for the genre. He probably had no idea how far they would go.
The 61st Oscar Ceremony still garners attention whenever lists of “worst   Oscar shows” are published. Disney held no grudges against the Academy and  the relationship continued as happily as it had been. In fact, Snow White made a  second appearance at the Oscars just a few years later. In 1993, she showed up  in animated form to present the award for best short subject. She brought the  house down with a line that poked fun at her seven dwarves, “I think I have some experience with short subjects.”  Sweet redemption indeed.
Disney Animation Finally Gets To the Top
March 1992 
“Snow White’ was a game changer in 1937, as the very first animated feature film.  Walt proved his doubters wrong. It became the highest grossing film of  all time to that point. Still, the Academy just couldn’t bring themselves to include a simple  cartoon among the list of Best Picture nominees. Walt had to settle for a  special award.
This bias against fully animated films lasted over half a century, as  classics were ignored simply because they were populated with characters that  originated in an artists inkwell rather than with flesh and blood actors. In  1991, Disney released a film that just couldn’t be ignored and finally managed  to break the Best Picture nomination barrier.
Disney had gotten their animation groove back with 1989’s “The Little  Mermaid” so it was no surprise that follow up efforts would rise to the same  level of quality. When Michael Eisner, Roy Disney and the other people in charge  of the studio saw what they had in “Beauty and the Beast”, they knew that it  deserved special treatment.
In an unprecedented move, the usually secretive Disney animation department  allowed the public to see an unfinished version of a film. They entered “Beauty  and the Beast” as a work in progress at the New York Film Festival. It was a  risky move, as large stretches of the film consisted of  the audio track set to  pencil sketches against plain white background. The gamble paid off. When the  screening ended, the usually stoic New York film crowd burst into a sustained  ten minute standing ovation.
Buoyed by that success, Disney arranged showings at other prestigious  venues and festivals. They even had surprise “double features” with showings of  the Steve Martin comedy “Father of the Bride.”
The film was also unique in that its screenplay was written by a woman, Linda Woolverton. That had never been done with a Disney animated feature. In  another first for the studio, they created a marketing campaign targeted  specifically at adults and couples. Rather than using the cartoon characters,  colorful backgrounds and  and cute sidekicks on their ads as they’d done for 50  years, they chose to utilize a one sheet poster with silhouettes of the main  characters backed by an ethereal glow. The tag line said simply “The most beautiful love story ever told.” Quite a boast indeed. (Disney did  create a more traditional cartoon poster for the film, which was used in later  ads.)
It all worked, as “Beauty and the Beast” rang up big box office numbers and  critics fell over themselves to praise the film as one of the best of the year.  Now the pressure was on, could Disney actually get a nomination for Best  Picture?
The answer was yes. When the nominees for Best Picture at the 64th Annual  Academy Awards were announced, “Beauty and the Beast” was included in the five.  Disney had finally done it. In addition to the Best Picture nomination, the film  got five other nods, the most ever for any animated film. It also got three  nominations in the Best Song category, thanks to the music of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. (Both feats are still a record, though both  “Enchanted” and “The Lion King” did tie the three song one and “Wall-E” tied for  most nominations, they all share the record.)
Sadly the ending of the story didn’t turn out as they had hoped. Just  getting there was an honor, but “Beauty and the Beast” was swept aside in what  became a history making night for another film, “Silence of the Lambs”, which  was only the third film to win all five top prizes (actor, actress, director,  screenplay, picture. Jodie Foster, whose film career began at Disney, was named  Best Actress.) Disney did win for best song and score.
The odds were long, to be sure, but many thought that Disney did have a shot at Best Picture. Just a few weeks earlier, “Beauty and the Beast” had won  top honors at the Golden Globes, which is sometimes seen as a bellweather for the  Oscars.
Speculation was rampant that Disney hurt themselves by refusing to follow  tradition and send full versions of the film (known as “screeners”) to Academy  voters. They feared the prospect of bootleg copies of their film being sold on  the black market, so Disney sent just a ten minute snippet of highlights from  the film. This seemed to imply that Disney thought that voters could not be  trusted with a personal copy of the film in their hands. Upset at being treated  like pirates, many voters sent angry letters and made calls to Disney. One guy  even told them that he thought “Beauty and the Beast” was definitely the best  picture of the year, but would give his vote to a studio who did trust him with  their film.
It took another 18 years before an animated film was given its due, and it  was yet another Disney film, “Up.” The big differences between the two are that  “Up” (and “Toy Story 3”, which also got a Best Picture nomination)  was animated by computers, not traditionally hand drawn, and it was included in  a list of ten nominees, not the more competitive five, as “Beauty and the Beast”  had to deal with.
The Academy added a separate category for Best Animated Feature Film in 2001, which many critics argue will prevent the Academy from ever giving top  prize to a cartoon. That remains to be seen, but until that day, “Beauty and the  Beast” will still be regarded as the pioneer.
Disney’s Amazing Oscar Streaks
1932 – Present
When “Chim Chimeree” won best song in 1964, the Sherman Brothers were in  top form, and Disney films were still box office winners. Nobody could have  predicted that Disney was about to hit a huge dry streak.
From 1932 until 1964, with the exception of two years (1940 and 1963)  Disney had at least one Oscar nomination. Many of those were for Best Song,  though it only resulted in three winners in that particular category.When Walt died in 1966, the Disney Studio’s creativity  seemed to go with him and the Academy noticed (Walt’s shadow was so large that a  few of the Oscars given to the Disney Studio after he died still had his name listed on  them as Producer.) Like the Yankees in baseball at that time, a once seemingly unstoppable winner was drifting aimlessly.
The time in the wilderness lasted for 25 years. While there were scattered  highlights and nominations, they resulted in few awards.In 1989, starting with  “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” things began to change. The resurrection of the Disney  animation department has widely been credited to “The Little Mermaid” and that  film started one of the most amazing winning streaks in modern film  history.
From 1989 to 2001, Disney only lost the Best Song category four times.  Twice it was because there were no nominations in that category for Disney, and  once because they were up against “My Heart Will Go On” from 1997’s “Titanic.”The only other streak in Oscar history that comes close to that also belongs to  Disney.
From 1934 to 1940 and also from 1951 to 1956, Disney won the Best Animated  Short category. Their only real competition at the time was from MGM’s Tom and  Jerry, which also built a small winning streak. In all, Disney won 12 out of 22  times it was nominated for animated short. They also won 10 of the first 12  times the award was given. One of Walt’s posthumous awards was for 1968’s  “Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day.”
In recent years, Pixar has helped Disney add to its records.
“Toy Story” was the first animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Screenplay award. Pixar had a four year streak of screenplay  nominations at one point.
“Up” was the first 3D Animated feature film to be nominated for Best  Picture.
Almost all  of Pixar’s films produced since the advent of the Best Animated Picture  Award have been nominated, losing only just a few times (“Monsters Inc.” and  “Cars” being the most notable snubs. Their sequels didn’t even get nominated.)
As noted earlier, Walt Disney holds the record for most Oscars won. Second  on that list is composer Alan Menken, who has won 14 (out of 28 nominations, the living record holder) all for Disney films. His  partner, Howard Ashman, died just before “Beauty and the Beast” came out and  holds the record for most posthumous Oscar wins (4.)
As you can see, Disney and Oscar have grown up nicely together. Depending  on what happens tonight at the Kodak Theater, history might be made once again, and Disney will add to its tally. With Pixar, Henson and Marvel now in the fold, Menken still active and the people like the Lopez’s working on other Disney projects, the studio will continue to  provide those magic award winning Hollywood films, songs and moments like only they can.
Walt, producer Hal Roach and Laurel & Hardy at the 1932 Oscars